Santa Monica is the GOAT


Alysha Tsuji

I wrote the following for the student-produced 2015 Pepperdine Housing Guide. Traditionally, the articles within it haven’t made their way online, so I thought I’d share it here.

I’m going to start with the obvious: Malibu is not a college town. Malibu is the antithesis of a college town. It is isolated, it is quiet, it despises chain store establishments.

Pepperdine, as you all know, is in Malibu. I chose to live on campus for the majority of my time as a student. I spent my freshman year in Hayes House, my sophomore year abroad in the London house, my junior year in Lovernich and part of my senior year in Drescher.

I moved off campus to Santa Monica in the middle of senior year. I thought it would be horrible. The idea seemed scary at first. However, what I learned is that change happens, change is inevitable and change is awesome.

Santa Monica changed my life.

Leaving campus was like a breath of fresh air — the cleanest, freshest air. Malibu had slowly started to suffocate me. Sure, there were perks to living on campus. It’s cool to see Gerard Butler at the Starbucks down the street and to be a 10-minute walk away from classes. But moving brought me a pleasantly surprising sense of peace.

The people of Santa Monica are quirky in a charming way (especially the people at the Starbucks on Wilshire), everything is in walking distance and, if you split apartment costs, the rent is affordable (when put in direct comparison with Pepperdine housing charges). Plus, out here I can’t get expelled for having an unopened bottle of wine in my fridge.

Late Nights

The only asterisk to the overwhelmingly long list of pros is the drive. Although, it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve yet to run into more than 20 to 30 minutes of light traffic. The one exception was Jan. 15 when men’s basketball played Gonzaga. I sat on PCH for 1.5 hours to make it to Firestone in time for tip-off, but that was an anomaly. After the game, ESPN reported that Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said about the traffic jam, “I’ve done this 26 times and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

PCH is amiable most of the time if you give it a chance.

Now you may be wondering who I’m living with, how I went about finding an apartment way out in the mysterious lands of Santa Monica in the middle of the year and whether or not I’ll have to keep my lease for 12 months.

My move happened to be unexpected, so I’m living solo in a studio (I didn’t have time to find roommates). Finding the studio simply required a strong sense of urgency and a little bit of Googling. As far as the lease, I managed to score a shortened 5-month lease for a 12-month price on a special holiday deal.

The act of suddenly shifting cities wasn’t particularly fun, though. The abrupt change of location was stressful (it involved me sleeping on an L-shaped couch for a month), but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If you’re contemplating living situation plans for the next school year, just know that Pepperdine housing, Villa Malibu, Malibu Villa, the Stinkies and other Malibu-localized accommodations aren’t your only options.

Soak in the college experience and create bonds with your classmates, yet don’t fear stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing freedom.

Yeezus serves as an inspiration to dream bigger

Life, Music

Leather jogging pants are not a thing. There is no way. That is absolutely ridiculous.

Leather. Jogging. Pants.

I heard Kanye rant about them in his interview with Zane Lowe last year. That one interview that got him into that brilliant  Twitter feud with Jimmy Kimmel that led to an epic Kanye speech delving into race and privilege and other wild tangents.

His exact words concerning the leather joggers:

“We brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said, ‘No.’ How many motherfuckers you done see with a jogging pant?”

At that point, I thought Kanye was just spewing craziness per usual. I didn’t realize that leather jogging pants were already a thing. Apparently. (See: Buzzfeed, Sept. 24, 2013)

IMG_1617.PNGSo when I was tapping around on my iPhone for pre-Black Friday deals after stuffing my face with turkey and saw Zumiez selling leather jogging pants, my jaw dropped. I immediately tweeted about how Kanye is a visionary and we should always dream big, even if people laugh.

Regardless of if seemingly ridiculously inconvenient leather jogging pants were a thing a year ago or today, I still feel that Yeezus isn’t completely out of his mind.

His rants serve a purpose, and — call me crazy — I believe they’re worth listening to.

Sure, more often than not they don’t make much sense, but hear me out for a second.

He talks. A lot. Kanye speaks his mind. Usually, the public response is laughter and judgment. “He’s a great rapper yet he’s just too arrogant. He’s too full of himself.”

But he never stops talking. There are songs written about him. “Kanye” by the Chainsmokers: “I wanna be like Kanye/ I’ll be the king of me always.” “Kanye West” by Atmosphere: “Put your hands in the air like you really do care.”

He locks his eyes on what he wants and goes out and gets it. He says what he wants when he wants. I’d bet that Mr. West lives with no regrets.

I’m not endorsing obnoxious swagger and an arrogant attitude. However, I do admire his confidence and ambition. His ability to wade through laughter and brush the dust off his shoulders with ease.

I wholeheartedly do not advise being like Kanye West. Just take an ounce of his confidence and ignore the haters — I really feel like that can go a long way. Lighten up on the haterade and lift yourself up, as Yeezus would.




Let Loose Like Swaggy P

Life, Sports

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Winning is life. A need to one-up everyone around you, to dominate everything you do, to rise to the top and own all bragging rights. Start from the bottom, crush the haters, throw up the Manziel money sign.

That intense sense of competitiveness can be found in great athletes: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams. But then there are the exceptions: LeBron James and Rory McIlroy succeed with smiles.

Extreme heightened competitiveness isn’t necessary to feel accomplished or happy. It works for some, yet it’s not a requirement. I never bought into it.

Of course victory feels nice, but so does working as a team and laughing through tough times and finding joy in every moment.

I love coaching kids’ basketball teams because they play with a pure passion that’s rarely seen in the more advanced levels. I remember one summer when I volunteered as a scorekeeper, and I watched one boy smile through the entire game.

I used to be that kid, straight cheesing as I ran around. At least until my mom scolded me saying, “You need to look more serious. Get your head in the game.”

Society has its way of knocking us down to the same level. There are sets of guidelines everyone follows, albeit frequently blindly. The general premise is to do whatever you can to be the best.

How about instead of putting our heads down and grinding to be the top dogs in our fields, we instead keep our heads up and attempt to be good teammates and good people? For just one second forget the need to be No. 1, and embrace the challenge.

For example, take the Lakers’ freshest fan favorite Nick Young, self-nicknamed “Swaggy P.” He pounded the hardwood for six years as a lesser-known role player for the Wizards, the Clippers and the 76ers. In 2013, the Lakers signed him.

Last year, while the Kobe-less Lakers were drowning in the despair of irrelevancy, Young emerged smiling — a bright spot in the darkness with a career-high 17.9 points on the season. He kept chugging, celebrating his three-pointers, enjoying his newfound recognition.

I’m all for that. I believe in “chill.” If stress and anxiety makes you feel good, then indulge — you do you. Otherwise, slow down and find the silver lining in the moment. Let loose, and let your shots fly, even if they don’t fall every time.

During one play last season, Young put up a shot and it felt good, so he began celebrating before seeing it fall through the net. It rattled out, and now the photo of him grinning while his shot pops out of the basket lives forever online.

He was living in that moment. He might have acted a fool, but according to CBS Sports, he signed a four-year, $21.5 million deal this year. A lapse of judgment that occurred when he was caught up in the emotions of an instant in time didn’t demolish his future.

Take a breath, don’t sweat the small things. Competition and success is important, but there is more to life than winning.

As published in the Oct. 2 Graphic


Life, Music, Sports

A lot of things in life are impossible:

1. Me dunking

2. Counting to infinity

3. Living forever

The list goes on and it can feel weighty — a little hope goes a long way.

Los Angeles is not lacking in hope. People flock to LA with high aspirations, as if the streets were paved with gold. I’m born and raised in this city, so to me the whole “I’m leaving home to make it in LA” story sounds more cliche than anything else. But it’s very real.

This year I’ve interviewed two young musicians — one from Florida and the other from China (article to publish in September) — who both spontaneously left their families to pursue dreams in the City of Angels. They both also said that upon arriving to LA, they felt a unique vibe in the air — a sense that anything is possible, that everyone wants to be something.

Recent NBA news has lived up to the LA hype, especially concerning the Asian American community.

First, hometown girl Natalie Nakase served as an assistant coach for the Clippers during the 2014 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. She has been a video coordinator for the Clippers, and her ultimate goal is to be the first female head coach in the NBA.

Some might say it’s a lofty aspiration. She has chops to back it up with her playing time at UCLA, her coaching experience in Japan and her friends with league ties, detailed in Kate Fagan’s feature from 2012. Now Nakase’s one step closer.

Second, hometown boy Jeremy Lin is now a Los Angeles Laker. As of 2013, Asians make up 14.6% of Los Angeles County, so you can bet that despite Lin waving off any notions of Linsanity, it’ll pick right up again in no time.

And remember this?

Kobe Bryant and Lin are now teammates. Lin even revealed that Kobe sent him a text proclaiming that there is lots of work to be done. Dreams do come true!

Stories like that of Nakase and Lin provide a glimmer of hope for a city of dreams.

I grew up playing in the same asian leagues as Nakase and I remember constantly hearing her name like she was a kid prodigy. To see her rise through the ranks on pure dedication is a fitting reminder of another cliche: Hard work pays off.


Sorry I Couldn’t Concentrate During Church Worship This Morning

Life, Sports

Hillsong LA

A tall guy in a backwards snapback snuck into the Belasco Theatre from the left of the stage in the middle of the opening worship songs during the 11 a.m. Hillsong LA service. He was non-disruptive, no one noticed.  But I did. This guy was towering over the two other men that walked in with him.

Then, I caught a side profile of him, and he really looked like Kevin Durant — as in 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant. I kept glancing over to the front row where he stood, each song passed and I tried to catch a better look.

Hillsong is similar to most Christian churches in that there is a point in the beginning where you’re urged to introduce yourself to those around you. Finally, the mysterious tall guy turned around, and surely it was Durant. While no one around me seemed to realize the great baller standing smack dab in the middle of the front row, I could recognize that face from a mile away. He left in the middle of the closing worship songs, the same way he entered. He swiftly and quietly hugged and fist bumped a few guys as he passed while exiting.

I’m guessing he was there to support the guest pastor from the New York City Hillsong, Carl Lentz. The two have photos together on both of their Instagram accounts. In the following snapshot, KD writes, “Shoutout my bruv @carllentz ! Happy birthday, love u man!”

And here’s one of the two catching some breakfast together with KD smiling.

The first reaction you may have to those photos is that this pastor is working for the wrong reasons, and that there is no way he’s a real pastor. Anderson Cooper touched on those skeptical views in a segment he did for Anderson Cooper 360º called, “Inside Hillsong’s ‘hipster’ church.” 

I challenge you to think otherwise. The way I see it, Lentz hanging out with the likes of Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields (I’m sure there are more athletes/actors/etc.) demonstrates that these big names are human. They need spiritual guidance as well.

To those who say that flashy pastors and concert-like worship sessions shouldn’t count as “church,” I ask, “Why not?” Matthew 18:20 says that God is present where two or three gather in his name. If the pastor happens to be tatted up, an NBA All-Star happens to drop in, the service happens to be held in a theater, that’s all circumstance. The truth lies in the motives, as it does in everything in life.

Anyway, Lentz gave an incredible message about Psalm 23 titled “Like it or not,” I caught a glimpse of Durant. I’m overly excited for the next NBA season, despite the fact that the 2014 NBA Draft hasn’t even happened yet. And I highly recommend Hillsong if you’re interested in checking out a church.